The criminal proceeding against you begins when the prosecutor files the charging document called the “information” charging you with DUI. You will likely receive a summons in the mail directing you to appear in court on a given date. Your appearance on this date is mandatory.

Your first appearance will be an arraignment at which you will be informed of the various constitutional rights you have during the criminal process and you will plead not guilty. The court will also determine the conditions of your pretrial release. The court will then set one or more pretrial hearing dates and a trial date in your case. Pretrial hearings are hearings in which the Prosecutor and your defense attorney will update the court as to the status of the case. The prosecutor and your defense attorney will let the court know if any continuances are necessary in your case or they will confirm that the case is on schedule for trial. Sometimes your attorney will use these pretrial hearings to schedule motions aimed at limiting the evidence the Prosecutor will be able to use against you. If your attorney has reached an agreement with the prosecutor as to how to resolve your case without trial, then the pretrial hearing may conclude with the entry of a plea of guilty, the entry of an order of dismissal, or the entry of some kind of alternative resolution in your case.

If you choose to exercise your constitutional right to have your case tried by a jury then your case will be set for trial. A jury of seven jurors (six jurors and one alternate) will be chosen. The prosecution will then have the burden of proving each element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor will call witnesses against you in order to meet this burden. These witnesses will often include the Arresting Officer, a Toxicologist from the Washington State Toxicologist Laboratory, and a Breath Tech Technician. Your attorney will then attempt to discredit these witnesses, the testimony they have provided, and their version of events through cross examination. You will then have the opportunity to call witnesses of your own including any defense investigators or experts hired on your behalf. You will also have an opportunity to testify on your own behalf. After all of the evidence has been presented both the prosecutor and your defense attorney will make closing arguments to the jury. The judge will then instruct the jury as to the law they must apply and the jury will begin to deliberate. The jury must unanimously agree that the state has proven each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt in order to return a verdict of guilty.

If you plead guilty at a pretrial hearing (or any hearing for that matter), the court will proceed to ensure your plea was entered knowingly and voluntarily. After your plea has been formally entered, the judge will proceed to sentence you. Both the Prosecutor and your defense attorney will be allowed to argue for the sentence they believe is just in your case. If they have agreed on a sentence they both think is just, they will inform the judge of that agreed recommendation. The judge is not bound by any recommendations made by the Prosecution or Defense and the judge will have the discretion to sentence you to any fine and term of confinement within the sentencing range established by the legislature for you particular offense.